In his relatively short existence in live-action media, Daredevil has endured more than the usual dodgy interpretations that befall a character no one quite knows what to do with. There’s his supporting role in Bill Bixby’s The Trial of the Incredible Hulk — and the less said about that TV movie, the better. The 2003 Ben Affleck-led Daredevil fared no better, falling victim to the early-2000s blunder of ignoring comic continuity in favor of Matrix-inspired “coolness.” The 2017 Netflix series broke the curse, with superb acting, writing, and directing that honored the longtime Marvel Comics hero and shed a light on a street-level version of the MCU. Yet despite its critical acclaim, the streamer cut the series short after three seasons due to Disney’s streaming competitor on the horizon. Fans were devastated by the cancelation, and things looked bleak for this acclaimed iteration of the character’s future.
- 10. Cut Man — Season 1, Episode 2
- 9. Condemned — Season 1, Episode 6
- 8. Speak of the Devil — Season 1, Episode 9
- 7. Daredevil — Season 1, Episode 13
- 6. New York’s Finest — Season 2, Episode 3
- 5. Penny and Dime — Season 2, Episode 4
- 4. Seven Minutes in Heaven — Season 2, Episode 9
- 3. Blindsided — Season 3, Episode 4
- 2. The Devil You Know — Season 3, Episode 6
- 1. A New Napkin — Season 3, Episode 13
Fast forward three more years and both Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio have reprised their iconic portrayals of the Man Without Fear and the Kingpin of Crime, respectively, in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Hawkeye. After this second round of embrace for this corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, more seems to be in the cards for Daredevil and company in the years ahead. To celebrate Daredevil being born again and completing its migration from Netflix to Disney+, these are 10 of the best episodes from the TV series.
One of the most famous things Daredevil has become known for is its gripping one-take hallway fight scenes. There’s one in each of the three seasons, and they’re all exceptional showcases in martial arts choreography and cinematography. In general, the series does an excellent job at conveying the incredibly high stakes the titular hero and supporting cast face in such an intimately scoped setting.
Cut Man opens with the hero near death in tossed in a dumpster, with Claire Temple the only one there to help. The tension and violence aren’t there for the sake of it, and the episode also serves as a deep dive into Matt Murdock’s troubled mental state blurring the lines of his morals. His hallway fight against a mob of Russian gangsters caps off the episode in both thrilling fashion and emotional satisfaction when he rescues the kidnapped boy from a life of slavery.
Season 1 enticingly raises the aforementioned tension of its plot through its cast, and Condemned is one of the most thrillingly claustrophobic episodes of the season. Daredevil takes Russian mob head, Vladimir, to an abandoned building to pry out information about the shadowy Wilson Fisk/Kingpin. As the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen’s arch-nemesis, he’s often two steps ahead of everyone else on the playing field.
One of the most enthralling scenes of this episode was the Kingpin suddenly reaching Murdock through his radio, half admirably and half condescendingly, warning him as if the latter is simply a child playing out of his league. It effectively sold the gravity of the situation and the daunting presence of Fisk without needing him physically in the scene. The air of uncertainty from watching Daredevil’s escape from his would-be concrete tomb was the icing on the cake.
Speak of the Devil begins in an excitingly disorienting manner, starting with a vicious nighttime duel between Daredevil and The Hand leader Nobu — and is clearly losing. The episode works its way back through that day until reaching the present. It’s shown that Matt is driven by rage and desperation to hunt down Wilson Fisk once he finds out that the death of Elena Cardenas, a client of Nelson and Murdock, was murdered on the villain’s order.
After pinpointing his alleged whereabouts to an abandoned warehouse, he finds only Nobu and that this was another trap set by Kingpin. Even after Daredevil barely makes it out of the gory fight alive, he’s soundly beaten in his first face-to-face with Fisk himself. Nine episodes into the season, the show makes audiences fear for Matt’s life at the apparent gulf in class between protagonist and antagonist.
Though the superhero TV trope of the main character not “earning” their main suit until the end of the show/season is tired in retrospect, Daredevil at least manages to make it satisfying. But aside from the big reveal, the most compelling things about this season finale are how it marked a new grim milestone for Kingpin’s development and the whirlwind of emotions in concluding the story.
Perhaps the most unforgettable scene is Fisk’s supervillain monologue in the back of the FBI escort. This could’ve easily been cheesy and over-the-top, but it’s thoroughly engrossing and suitably terrifying. Kingpin, up until this point, believed himself to be the hero of his own story. However, he not only realizes that he isn’t “the good Samaritan,” but he’s embracing his role as the villain and a necessary evil. It’s the right level of imposing dread that does his comic book counterpart justice and makes Daredevil’s fully realized form feel like an earned homage to Frank Miller’s The Man Without Fear.
Season 2 of Daredevil doesn’t measure up to the same meteoric heights of seasons 1 and 3 but was still a solid sophomore endeavor in its own right. Undoubtedly the most engaging episodes of the season involve Jon Bernthal’s definitive portrayal of Frank Castle/the Punisher.
He and the Daredevil have an incredible dynamic thanks to Bernthal and Cox’s performances, and effectively writing out their stark differences in ideology when it comes to crimefighting. Their rooftop debate on Daredevil’s “no-kill rule,” the belief of redemption, and the spectrum of morality was mesmerizing to watch and, of course, finishes this encounter with another immaculately shot and choreographed one-take fight scene.
While being an episode of Daredevil, Penny and Dime feels just as much — if not more — a Punisher episode. It’s also one of the more gruesome ones, as it shows Frank being truly beaten for the first time in the season after being kidnapped and tortured by the Irish mob. Along with the tension of the Punisher being in increasingly dire situations, his last-minute rescue by Daredevil made for an exciting duet in their explosive escape.
But even in the episode’s quietest moments, it’s deeply impactful. When the two sit with Frank heavily battered, Bernthal’s performance and dialogue delivery paint the unhinged antihero in a sympathetic and tragic light. His somber, tired state illustrated this dangerous character’s bruised humanity.
Even though they’re not the central characters of the series, Seven Minutes in Heaven puts two of the best characters introduced through Daredevil. The Punisher and Kingpin strike a temporary and incredibly fragile alliance to appeal to the former’s bloody quest for vengeance and the latter’s foreboding comeback story. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t go very well. After Frank gets the information out of the imprisoned mobster he needs, Kingpin thanks him and promptly lets loose every inmate in his block to brutally kill him.
And even seeing Fisk smash a Russian mobster’s head into a pulpy mess with a car door in season 1, the “hallway fight scene” that Frank’s given in this episode arguably takes the cake for the goriest and chaotic episode of the show. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin and Bernthal’s Punisher have an enticingly aggressive dynamic, even in the few minutes we were given with them.
Season 3 presents the Man Without Fear at the darkest and lowest he’s ever been. The show overall balanced the gritty crime-noir tones and subgenre masterfully, but the third season channels Frank Miller’s seminal comic book storyline Born Again and Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s run on Daredevil the most vividly.
The tortured state of mind that Matt finds himself in shows the lengths he’s willing to go to tear Fisk back down, as far as to steal Foggy’s identity to get into prison for dirt on the villain. As expected, Kingpin is a step ahead of Matt on this and turns the entire prison into the vigilante’s personal hell. Everything from the score, acting, choreography make the following anxiety-inducing, 10-minute fight the best of the series’ one-take scenes.
This bleak evolution of the Daredevil persona has Matt struggling with crises of faith, morality, and suicidal thoughts, all while the Kingpin is effectively loose again on the streets, the FBI in his pocket, and Ben Poindexter/Bullseye impersonating and slandering his symbol.
The aptly named The Devil You Know takes things to grimmer new lows, as just when Matt is picking himself up and showing signs of letting Foggy and Karen in again and Fisk on the brink of being exposed, Bullseye leads a bloody massacre at the New York Bulletin. It’s a similar sense of overwhelming dread that also leads to a visceral and unforgettable fight between Daredevil and Bullseye.
As far as cancelations go, Daredevil managed to tell a “complete” story that ties up all of the most necessary loose ends. Matt’s emotional state has been veering closer to the edge than it ever has across the show’s run, as his dark evolution of Daredevil wallows in anger, violence, and vengeance. The three major players in this violent game are all against each other (Daredevil, Bullseye, and Kingpin), and A New Napkin set them all on an explosive collision course.
Even taking into account the astonishing one-take fights, this three-way brawl between the titular hero, Bullseye, and Kingpin is among the most breathtakingly brutal and visceral sequences of the series. The payoff is even stronger, with Daredevil delivering Fisk the most cathartic beatdown of his life and triumphantly reclaiming his mantle as a symbol of hope that can’t be torn down. It’s the moment in the show where he’s truly “born again” and experiences much-needed character growth and reconciliation with his loved ones.
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